Most staff of Maryland delegation are working 7 of 10 in House, Senate keep all workers on job

November 16, 1995|By John B. O'Donnell and Brad Snyder | John B. O'Donnell and Brad Snyder,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON — A photo caption in yesterday's editions misstated the number of employees furloughed by Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes of Maryland. Senator Sarbanes has furloughed 29 out of 44 employees.

* The Sun regrets the error.

WASHINGTON -- Seven of the 10 Marylanders in Congress, who represent thousands of furloughed "nonessential" federal workers, have kept their entire personal staffs on the job.

Justifying their decisions, most said their staffs were "essential" while two claimed it would be ludicrous to send anyone home from the job when President Clinton and Republican congressional leaders promise federal workers will eventually be paid for the time away from work.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

"Your staff handles the constituent work, where the majority of the work is," said freshman Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., the Baltimore County Republican who has a staff of 20 and represents 19,000 federal workers.

Rep. Constance A. Morella, a Republican who has 55,000 federal workers in her Montgomery County district, said the work of all her 17 employees is "related to legislation. If they are related to the legislative agenda, they are essential."

Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, the Western Maryland Republican, took a different tack.

"They should be working because ultimately they are going to get paid anyway," he said, citing promises of the GOP leadership and the president to pay furloughed workers eventually.

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski agreed, according to Rachel Kunzler, her press secretary. "The senator thinks it's inappropriate to retroactively pay staff for not coming into work," she said.

Ms. Mikulski did furlough 27 of her 47 workers Tuesday. She called all of them back yesterday because of the "incredible workload" generated by the federal shutdown and further assurances that everyone will be paid, said Ms. Kunzler.

As of yesterday afternoon, the Baltimore Democrat had gotten 417 telephone calls related to the stalemate and had at least two dozen constituents ask for aid in solving problems resulting from the shutdown.

One man, for example, had been told on Monday to pick up his passport at 2 p.m. Tuesday, but found the office closed.

Rep. Albert R. Wynn, a Prince George's County Democrat who represents 72,000 federal workers, sent 12 of his 18 workers home Tuesday and then called them back yesterday.

"We got so many calls from people who are concerned about this," said Sharon McGill, Mr. Wynn's press secretary. "It was essential that his staffers be there to deal with the shutdown."

The Clinton administration furloughed 800,000 federal employees Tuesday-- 40 percent of the civilian work force -- after the president vetoed legislation that would have kept the government operating temporarily. All but "essential" employees were told to go home, but decisions on who was essential were left to individual agencies.

On Capitol Hill, aides said members of Congress were advised that employees who deal directly with legislative matters are considered essential. But, with staff members doing everything from opening mail to writing legislation to scheduling the boss' day, deciding who worked and who walked was left to each lawmaker.

Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, the Eastern Shore Republican who represents 20,000 federal workers, kept all 15 of his employees on the job. "Everyone on staff is essential or they wouldn't be working for the congressman," said Cathy Bassett, Mr. Gilchrest's press secretary.

But Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, a Baltimore Democrat, had only 15 of his 44 aides at work yesterday -- two in his Baltimore office to handle calls from angry federal workers and 13 in his Washington office, said William Toohey, a spokesman.

"We brought in those who work directly with the senator's legislative function," he said.

In the House, only two Marylanders, both Democrats, were operating with partial staffs yesterday. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Southern Maryland had seven of 17 on furlough while Rep. Kweisi Mfume of Baltimore was operating without nine of his 15 workers.

"I don't think it's fair to put federal workers in this kind of a bind, if I'm not prepared to suffer equally in my own office," Mr. Mfume said. "I just want to be consistent in what I say and what I do."

Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, a Baltimore Democrat, said he will furlough one-third of his 15-member staff tomorrow if the shutdown hasn't ended.

"All my employees are essential," he said. "But we have no choice."

Asked what he would tell a furloughed constituent who called his fully staffed office, Mr. Ehrlich replied, "I suppose those workers who are deemed nonessential who are calling up my office expect their calls answered."

Added Mrs. Morella, "I'd tell them I'm working very hard to make sure they will be paid [and] that I'm doing all I can to stop this shutdown."

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